The Power of Education
By Dr. Ghulam M. Haniff
St. Cloud, MN
On October 22, 2008 India fired a rocket into the outer space carrying a spacecraft that landed, days later, safely on the moon and at once began to transmit valuable data back to the Indian space control. Cameras on board Chandrayaan-1 began to provide scientists at the central space headquarters with video images of the moon for further expeditions to that celestial body.
Those tiny numbers of Pakistanis who understand the implication of the Indian accomplishment are quite envious of what the scientists have done next door. Most people in Pakistan don’t have a clue regarding scientific activities and are totally indifferent to the advancement spearheaded by New Delhi. (One maulvi I spoke with at a gathering had heard the news from his engineer son, also a maulvi, but did not understand the significance of the information, and dismissed the whole thing as “lies” from India meant to confuse the Muslims)!
No doubt, India’s investment in education is paying off handsome dividends. The amount of knowledge produced, accumulated and mastered by Indian scholars during the past few decades has been truly remarkable and placed that country among the most rapidly advancing nations in the world.
Judging by research published and products developed, Indian scientists as well as other experts are among the best in the world. They have excelled in every field of endeavor and are fast becoming dominant in many fields, with superior results in the field of computers, information technology, software development, aerodynamics and so forth. In medicine some of the Republics hospitals are said to be even better at health care than those in the United States. Indian doctors are routinely performing surgery in areas previously done only in America.
In comparison, Pakistan has been left far behind in the dust and it is falling further into a rat hole. Though Pakistanis may be proud of their ability to bomb one another, inside mosques no less, India keeps on coming up with one surprise after another in human accomplishments making the citizens of the Islamic Republic frustrated and desperate. It is this sense of desperation that instigated the ill-advised venture like the one recently undertaken in Mumbai.
The many Indian accomplishments demonstrate the power of education, the brainchild of Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, put into operation during the fifties. The Indian lunar probe is sitting on the moon today because Indian universities produced vast cadres of scientists, engineers and scholars capable of visualizing, conceptualizing and executing actions needed to be taken in the national interest. The credit for the vast Indian educational enterprise, from the early years to the postgraduate levels, goes out not only to Nehru but to many Indian activists and visionaries who actually went in the field and built schools and colleges with their own hands.
Entrepreneurial capabilities for organizational efforts seem to be almost totally absent among Pakistanis as are those skills involving initiative, drive and motivation. They too could have built schools and universities and other institutions for moving the country forward had it not been for the lack of the basic skills identified. As newspapers frequently comment the educational system of the of the Islamic Republic is broken at all levels, from elementary to secondary to university, and unlikely to be put together into a system until its economic and political institutions are built.
In the early fifties a number of top Indian leaders got together with Pundit Nehru and decided that the best way for a desperately poor nation like India to progress was through education. Learning and education became the chosen instruments for India to rise from its medieval past to an industrial future.
The commitment was made and the leadership in New Delhi pursued its goal with a single-minded determination regardless of the government in power. Pundit Nehru as the Prime Minister launched the founding of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) that became the backbone of the higher education in the country.
Similar commitments could have been made in Pakistan as well had it not been for its third-rate leadership. Those who rose to the top were all intellectually dull, lacking in imagination and devoid of vision for the nation’s future. The issue of education was hardly ever brought up for discussion. By their non-decision they accepted the proposition that universal adult literacy was impossible for the nation. This view was forcefully articulated by Dr. M. N. Shami, chairman of Pakistan Science Foundation, at the annual convention of the Association of Pakistani Scientists and Engineers of North America (APSENA), meeting in Northbrooks, Illinois, in 1987.
Meanwhile, India never wavered from its goal of making everyone literate in as short a time-span as possible. Today, India has achieved a literacy rate of 74 percent while Pakistan is languishing at 48 percent. Numerous Indian universities are ranked as world-class, but none in Pakistan, or for that matter in the entire Muslim world. Indian scholarly productivity is legendary with variety of scholarly articles published in refereed journals around the world. That is hardly the case with Muslim scholars.
India is poised to become the second most industrial and economic power by the closing decades of this century. It is maintaining its high rate of industrial growth and this year it may even exceed that of China. None of these achievements would have been possible without the high degree of excellence in education.
The message to Pakistan is clear, as indeed, to the Muslim world. But once again the decision-making power in Islamabad is in the hands of third-rate leaders. As the world passes by the educational enterprise of Pakistan remains mired in the gutter. The difficult question to answer at the moment is whether someone will resurrect it, and run with it, for the salvation of the Pakistani nation as well as the world of Islam.